Posted on | March 31, 2011 | 2 Comments
Today marks the launch of an online tool aiming to compare the health level of Americans. These statistics were collected and presented by a consortium including the University of Wisconsin, and combine data on American’s health with other social, environmental, economic and demographic surveys.
There we learn surprisingly that the environment (natural of man-made) isn’t the most important factor impacting health. Nor is the availability of public health facilities, even though the latter still play an important role
Much to the contrary, health depends first and foremost on education. Thus, completing high school studies, even postsecondary education, is an important factor. In the first quartile (the healthiest) 82% Americans have a high school diploma, compared to 75% in the fourth quartile. The rate of illiteracy is logically inversely proportional, climbing from 11% to 15%. Education also influences income: family income is 52,904$ in the first quartile and 37,632$ in the last.
But sexual education matters as well, and follows education in general. In the quartile were teen pregnancy are the lowest, 82% of the population has a high school diploma, compared to 74% in the last quartile. It is therefore important to help teen mothers complete their studies. This is crucial, for the rate of single-parent families is also proportional to the rate of teen pregnancies (from 26% in the first quartile to 35% in the last). Child poverty (from 16% to 27%) and the rate of STDs (from 234 per hundred thousand to 417 per hundred thousand) follow similar pattern. The weight of newborn children is inversely proportional to teen pregnancy rates.
Yet, access to health insurance has no role on actual health, nor does air pollution. Access to health food makes a difference chiefly for the first quartile. Yet a rural lifestyle is more harmful on global health than an urban one. Strangely enough, heavy drinking is also proportional to health levels (all hypotheses are welcomed at this point). Physical activities and obesity still have demonstrated relationships with health.
This study is extremely important in that it demonstrates the greater importance of information and education on health. Knowing the cost incurred by our health care system, not mentioning the losses incurred by sick leaves, we should invest our billions not in the construction of hospitals which will never be built, but in preventive measures in order to address the issue at its root.